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Voters in Ireland pave way for abortion on demand

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters

By Michael Kelly

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Voters in Ireland have opted to remove the right to life of the unborn from the country's constitution, paving the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

With votes counted from 30 of Ireland's 40 constituencies, results from the nationwide referendum showed that 67.3 percent of citizens opted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, while 32.7 percent voted to retain it. Turnout was 64.5 percent.

Voters inserted the original amendment in the constitution in 1983 by a margin of 2-1, and it "acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

That text will now be deleted and replaced with an article stating that "provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy."

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, up to 24 weeks on unspecified grounds for the health of the mother, and up to birth where the child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition that means he or she may not live long after birth.

An exit poll conducted by the Ireland's national broadcaster RTE asked voters what motivated them to opt for either "yes" or "no." Among "yes" voters, the most important issues were the right to choose (84 percent), the health or life of the woman (69 percent), and pregnancy as a result of rape (52 percent).

Among "no" voters, they cited the right to life of the unborn (76 percent), the right to live of those with Down syndrome or other disabilities (36 percent), and religious views (28 percent).

John McGuirk, spokesman for Save the Eighth, which campaigned for a "no" vote, described the outcome as "a tragedy of historic proportions."

"The Eighth Amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child -- it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed and will always exist," he said, insisting that "a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."

"We are so proud of all of those who stood with us in this campaign -- our supporters, our donors, our families and our loved ones," he said. "This campaign took a huge personal toll on all of us who were involved, and we have been so grateful for their support."

Insisting that pro-life campaigners will continue their efforts, McGuirk told Catholic News Service: "Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country. We will oppose that legislation. If and when abortion clinics are opened in Ireland, because of the inability of the government to keep their promise about a (general-practitioner-led health) service, we will oppose that as well.

"Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not," he said.

Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign insisted that the organization will try to ensure that the Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is true to his pledge that the government will work to ensure that abortions are rare.

"We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach's promises in this regard," she said.

Commenting on the campaign, Cullen said: "We are immensely proud and grateful to all our volunteers throughout the country who worked tirelessly over recent months to ensure unborn babies would not be deprived of legal protections.

"The campaign to protect unborn babies will endure," she said.

Eamonn Conway, a theologian at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, told Catholic News Service he was "greatly saddened" by the result. However, he pointed out that "the truth is that the Irish Constitution merely recognized the right to life that is antecedent to all law. This most fundamental of all human rights is not extinguished or diminished because our constitution no longer acknowledges it. What is diminished is our constitution," he said.

Conway said he believes "the task facing the Catholic Church now is to ensure that it makes every effort to accompany with the healing compassion of Christ everyone caught up in the tragic circumstances that surround an abortion ... from grieving parents to medical practitioners."

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of All-Ireland, was expected to address the referendum outcome during a homily at the country's national Marian shrine at Knock, County Mayo, May 27.

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Mercy Friday: Pope surprises students rehearsing after school

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Continuing his occasional series of "Mercy Friday" visits, Pope Francis surprised the students at a school renamed in March in honor of a student who died of leukemia at the age of 11.

For the visit May 25 to the Elisa Scala Comprehensive School, which includes students from the age of 3 to 14, the pope also brought books for the school library. The Vatican did not provide the titles of the books or give any other details about them.

Before the city of Rome and the Italian department of education allowed the whole school to be named after Elisa, the library was. Her parents, Giorgio and Maria, said their daughter loved to read and, after she died in 2015, they started the library, which now holds more than 20,000 volumes, all of which were donated.

The couple gave the pope a guided tour of the shelves.

Pope Francis arrived at the school after classes had ended for the day. But more than 200 students were there preparing for a year-end show featuring dance, sport and theater. After five months of rehearsals, they sang for the pope.

The pope began the "Mercy Friday" initiative during the Holy Year of Mercy in 2015-16 to highlight the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Among other places, the visits have taken him to hospitals and rehabilitation centers, a group home for children, a L'Arche Community, a halfway house for women inmates with small children and a home for women rescued from forced prostitution.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Abortion doesn't protect women's human rights, Vatican official says

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is a contradiction to claim that promoting access to safe abortions is somehow protecting the human rights of women and girls, a Vatican representative said.

"In fact, abortion denies the unborn child his or her most basic right -- to life itself," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

As Pope Francis has said, "Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Jurkovic spoke May 25 at the World Health Assembly, a meeting of the member states of the World Health Organization to set W.H.O. policies and programs.

He was addressing one of the agenda items of the May 21-26 meeting, specifically on the global strategy for the health of women, children and adolescents.

The Vatican delegation "shares many of the concerns and observations" in the W.H.O. director-general's report, he said, including: the importance of universal health coverage; improving specific data on health; ending violence against women and children; and revising child health policies and programs so they cover from infancy to 18 years of age.

However, he said, the Vatican delegation had serious concerns about the inclusion of an item "on so-called 'safe abortion' in this report and in the global strategy in general."

"The Holy See does not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of reproductive health or reproductive health care," Archbishop Jurkovic said.

The delegation was also "immensely concerned" about the W.H.O. being part of an open-access "Global Abortion Policies" database launched by several U.N. departments and programs. The database summarizes every country's laws and policies concerning abortion with the aim, according to the W.H.O., "to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries' accountability for the protection of women and girls' health and human rights."

"The Holy See does not endorse any form of legislation that gives legal recognition to abortion and, thus, firmly objects to any and all efforts by the U.N. or its specialized agencies to promote national legislation that permits the taking of the life of an unborn child," the archbishop told the assembly.

"Moreover, the Holy See cannot accept the contradictory claim that promotion of so-called 'safe abortion' is a means to 'protect' the human rights of women and girls, when, in fact, abortion denies the unborn child his or her most basic right -- to life itself," he said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Veterans found 'life-changing,' 'healing' experience at Lourdes

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

Veterans taking part in the 2018 Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage to France said the journey has positively influenced their lives and benefited those around them.

Maj. Jeremy Haynes, a first-time spiritual pilgrim and Lourdes visitor, said he is a changed man since visiting the shrine, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in a series of visions in 1858.

"The trip has been life-changing for my wife and me," Haynes told Catholic News Service. "With faith as our compass, we remain committed to moving forward."

Haynes was shot four times in Afghanistan and sustained injuries that have left him struggling to overcome the physical constraints of paralysis. It has been a difficult journey. He also seeks healing for wounds in his family life that occurred prior to his physical injury.

"With a minimum emphasis on faith, my family life was a disaster and divorce was imminent. After being shot multiple times, I recall sinking into a dark place," said Haynes. "Despite being a sinner, God showed mercy by sparing my life and allowing me to witness the birth of my son. Taking part in this spiritual journey has cleansed my soul and created a stronger connection with my wife."

Haynes previously served within the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, and the American Red Cross national headquarters. He commanded a parachute rigger company, served as an aide de camp, and taught at the Army Logistics University. He is currently assigned to the Walter Reed National Medical Center and soon will retire from the military. He has been awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Jumpmaster, Parachute Rigger Badge and Air Assault Badge.

Haynes, who went on the Lourdes trip to seek healing "mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally," said he was honored to visit Lourdes with military from around the world. The Warriors to Lourdes trip -- sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Knights of Columbus -- occurred in late May, during the 60th annual International Military Pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in France.

"We broke bread together, worshipped together, and promoted peace together. Although we speak different languages, faith connected us," Haynes said. "I experienced the power of prayer as being a universal language that led me to encounter awesome individuals."

The Rev. Steven Rindahl, an Anglican priest and U.S. Army veteran, took part in the pilgrimage and said he believed the journey benefited all who participated in it.

"There have been people who have been touched in so many different ways. It would be difficult to make a list to encompass all the different blessings people have received while they've been here," said Rev. Rindahl, a retired U.S. Army chaplain who has served in duty stations in many states, including Texas, New York and Georgia.

Rev. Rindahl, who has ministered to active-duty soldiers and veterans, has worked with veterans afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder as an "extensive piece" of his total ministry. In addition to emotional stress, people exposed to combat often suffer from a condition he refers to as "moral injury," which he describes as a conflicted conscience resulting from complex or traumatic wartime experiences.

"War is an unnatural thing. They get this sense of guilt or shame," said Rev. Rindahl, who believes this condition can be treated successfully with a faith response, particularly the sacrament of reconciliation.

"The great thing about Lourdes is that it is a known place for healing. Regardless of what your injury is -- whether it's physical, emotional or damage to your soul -- when a person says, 'I want to go to Lourdes,' they're going specifically with a heart and mind open to receiving God's grace and what God has in store for them," said Rev. Rindahl.

Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary M. Rose said the 2018 Lourdes journey helped a friend recently suffering from severe PTSD connected with "a very bad, horrible battle" that happened in 1966. Rose said there has been a "noticeable improvement in his demeanor" since their return.

"Every single person that I know that went on that trip has come back much better than they were when they left for Lourdes," said Rose, a Catholic. "Even me -- I feel a lot better. My outlook is far better than it was a week or 10 days ago."

Rose said while visiting the shrine he was often asked by others whether he believed the Mary was present.

"I got asked, 'Do you think Mary is here?' I don't know. I can't personally say, 'Mary is here,'' said Rose. "But I can personally say that there is some entity in the Lourdes shrine area that spreads nothing but good and seems to improve the demeanor and the psychological aspects of everybody that I associated with that went to Lourdes with me last week."

Haynes said he is extremely grateful to all those who sponsored the opportunity and who volunteered at it -- and also expressed a special thanks to organizers for allowing his wife to take part in the journey with him.

"Thank you for equipping me with the tools to become a better God-fearing man, husband, father, and citizen," said Haynes.

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Fletcher is a correspondent for Catholic News Service.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Scouts see how different faith traditions live out Ten Commandments

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marie Mischel, Intermountain Catholic

By Marie Mischel

OGDEN, Utah (CNS) -- Each year for the past decade, a group of Boy Scouts in Ogden have spent a day walking from house of worship to house of worship, learning how the Ten Commandments are put into practice in different faith traditions.

"From the very beginning, the idea was to build an awareness of an ecumenical spirit," said Deacon Herschel Hester, one of the four original organizers of the Ten Commandments Walk.

Because most of the Scouts have never been exposed to a faith outside their own, "the whole idea is for these young men to be introduced to a larger (faith) community than just theirs," he told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the statewide Diocese of Salt Lake City.

"It has nothing to do with a merit badge, but it all has to do with living out the 12th point of the Scout Law: A Scout is reverent," said Deacon Hester, who is a member of the diocese's Committee on Scouting and a member of the executive board of the Boy Scouts Trapper Trails Council.

Scouts who belong to the council's member troops take part in the event, which took place this year May 12.

The walk also helps emphasize the Scout oath, which promises duty to God, the deacon said.

Ninety Scouts participated in the inaugural walk. This year more than 300 boys walked the 6.6-mile route that took them to Ogden's Second Baptist Church, Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, the Salvation Army, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Elim Lutheran Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Fourth Ward, Hope Resurrected Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, First Presbyterian Church and Congregation Brith Sholem.

At the final stop, Rabbi Ben Stern chanted the Ten Commandments in Hebrew from the synagogue's Torah scroll.

"When someone reads Torah, the most important thing is to be accurate on their reading," he said, and explained that generally on the Jewish Sabbath the person reading or chanting from the Torah uses a book rather than the handwritten scroll because the book is easier to read.

The book is held by a person other than the reader, and the person holding the book will correct the reader if there is a mispronunciation, Rabbi Stern said. "If you get something wrong, they have to stop you. It's required."

Rabbi Stern also answered questions such as why yarmulkes are worn, how long the Jewish worship services are, and the concept of kosher.

The night before the hike, the Scouts camped out at Marshall White Center Park. That evening, they heard from Charles W. Dahlquist II, the national commissioner of Boy Scouts of America and past Young Men general president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Scouting is a world organization of people who care about each other and who care about duty to God and faith in God, and who not only believe what they have learned but they practice what they preach and they practice what they believe," said Dahlquist.

He urged those present to learn about the different faith practices they would hear about the next day "because understanding brings peace."

Dahlquist was invited to speak to the gathering by Jacques Behar, a member of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting and president of the Ogden synagogue.

Some of Dahlquist's closest friends are people of faiths different from his own, he said. "There is much more that joins us than separates us. We live in a time when we need to be joined more than ever before."

Behar, who has been an adult Scout leader for 32 years, said in an interview that he is pleased young men of many faiths participate in the hike because afterward "it's interesting to have them walk away and say, 'Gee, I didn't realize how close we all are.'"

"And I always tell them that if you would just concentrate on the 85 percent that we're all alike, and not so much on the 15 percent that we're not, the world would be a much better place," he said.

Riley Crezee, an Eagle Scout from St. James the Just Parish's Troop 293 who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening, said the opportunity the Ten Commandments Walk gives for Scouts to learn about different people's faith is important, "especially today where everything is just very polarized. ... I think that makes us better people as a society."

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Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Ryan, Brownback, archbishop address National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- This year's National Catholic Prayer breakfast took on a decidedly Kansas flavor, as Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City and Sam Brownback, a former House and Senate member and governor of Kansas, addressed nearly 1,000 gathered at a Washington hotel May 24.

Also speaking was outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who was a staffer for Brownback in the latter's early days in Congress.

"We support the right to religious freedom," said Brownback, now the U.S. at-large ambassador for international religious freedom. It is not because that right appears in the Constitution or the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, he said, but "because it's a God-given right."

"No government has the right to infringe upon a God-given right. No government has the right to do that," he added to applause.

"It's important to us because it's important to God," Brownback said. The right to religious freedom is "not in our DNA, but it's in our souls," and all humans have that right "even if we disagree with their path or destination."

Despite this, "more people are being persecuted for their faith right now than at any other time in human history," according to Brownback. "God knew before he made us that we would mess it up -- and he created us anyway."

Brownback began his remarks by congratulating those in the audience who "fought and fought and fought" for the right to life. He said that during his six years as Kansas governor, which ended with his February confirmation to the ambassadorial post, he had "signed 19 pro-life bills, and we had 17,000 fewer abortions in Kansas in those six years than we had in the prior six years."

Ryan, who is not running for re-election, thanked those in attendance "for what do you on this excellent journey."

He lamented the political culture in Washington. "'Survival of the shrillest' is what some people call us these days," he said. It seems, he added, as if everything is viewed "always in survival mode" and people find intrigue in things "that frankly aren't all that intriguing."

In Washington politics, Ryan said, "optics" is what counts. "That is a word I will not be missing," he said to laughter.

He recommended Catholic social teaching, sometimes calling it "Catholic social doctrine," as "the perfect antidote to what ails our society."

"As Catholics, there is nothing more fulfilling than fulfilling our mission with passion, with prayer and with joy," Ryan said.

He lauded the twin principles of subsidiarity and solidarity as the best approach to dealing with issues, rather than relying on government to solve every problem. With those principles in hand, Ryan said, "people and problems are not treated as if they're distractions,"

In his remarks, Archbishop Naumann, who begins a three-year term in November as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, warned that the nation's most serious crisis is "a God-crisis -- a crisis of faith."

He looked askance at "the large number of millennials who profess atheism or, even more commonly, identify themselves as spiritual, but not religious. This nonreligious spiritualism is a new paganism, where God is not the God of revelation who makes himself known to us, but a god or gods that are fashioned in our own image to reinforce our own desires."

Archbishop Naumann said, "It is this loss of a sense of God that also leaves us vulnerable to losing sight of the innate value of each and every human being." It promotes a culture in which "human life becomes just another thing in a world of things. Materialism reigns and breeds utilitarianism; our value is determined by our usefulness," he said.

"We are called to renew our nation, not primarily by enacting laws, but by announcing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Jesus to individuals in desperate need of its good news. It is our task to reclaim our culture -- one mind, one heart, one soul at a time," Archbishop Naumann said.

To do so, he added, we need Jesus. "Jesus defeats humanity's twin enemies, sin and death, by walking through death to eternal life. We believe in a God who died but is far from dead. The triumphant, risen Lord is still animating the lives of those who open their hearts to encounter his love. Thus for the Christian, we are never without hope," the archbishop said.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Remains of St. John XXIII begin pilgrimage in his home diocese

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Paul Haring

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) -- Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.

The route taken for the trip north was kept secret for security reasons.

When the procession reached Bergamo's central Vittorio Veneto Square, Bishop Beschi told thousands of people gathered there that it was "with great joy and emotion that I accompanied to our diocese, our city, the urn with the mortal remains -- now relics -- of John XXIII, which return for a few days to the land of his birth."

St. John, who opened the Second Vatican Council, was born Nov. 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, a town near Bergamo. After his ordination as a priest and years of service in the Vatican diplomatic corps, he was appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953. He was elected pope Oct. 28, 1958, and died five years later.

The pilgrimage with his remains was meant to mark the 60th anniversary of his election and the 55th anniversary of his death.

Maria Calagari was in the square with her sister and some friends to welcome St. John's remains. 

"We are fortunate because we saw him when he was pope, we saw him die and we just saw him now -- 55 years later as a saint here in Bergamo," she said. "We are fortunate."

In connection with the pilgrimage of St. John's relics, Pope Francis gave an interview to L'Eco di Bergamo, the area's main daily newspaper, which is owned by the Diocese of Bergamo.

In the interview, Pope Francis described St. John as "a saint who did not know the word 'enemy,'" but "always sought what would unite people."

For St. John, he said, "the church is called to serve human beings, not just Catholics, and to defend always and everywhere the rights of the human person and not just of the Catholic Church."

Pope Francis said the pilgrimage was meant to be "a gift and an occasion" to renew one's faith and to remember the great pope. It is a special opportunity for the elderly, the sick and the poor, who have not been able to go to St. Peter's Basilica to pray at his tomb.

The visit to the Diocese of Bergamo included a stop at the city's prison, where 180 prisoners -- including 35 Muslims -- asked permission to enter the internal courtyard where a truck carrying the remains was to stop.

The prison yard was the first place in Bergamo where people were allowed to touch the glass coffin. The prisoners were given a square of either yellow or white fabric to touch to the glass; most of them touched the glass with their hands, then used the fabric to wipe the glass clean.

Vincenza, one of the inmates, told the local television station that it was amazing to have the saintly pope's remains stop in the prison at the beginning of the pilgrimage "because usually, especially for important events, prisoners are the last ones people think about."

From the prison, the relics were to be driven to the diocesan seminary named after Pope John XXIII. The priests of the diocese were to escort the remains to the cathedral later in the day.

Teens and young adults of the diocese planned a prayer vigil in the cathedral May 25, and the remains were also to be present the next morning as new priests were ordained for the diocese.

After a Mass with the poor May 27, the body was to be moved to the hospital named after the late pope, then transferred to the Shrine of St. John XXIII in Sotto il Monte.

Pilgrims can pray before the saint's remains at the shrine until June 10, when Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, will celebrate Mass and the body will be returned to the Vatican.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, told Vatican Media that "this is the first time -- it's never happened before -- that the remains of a pope make a return visit to his home, to his roots."

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Pope to meet with second group of abuse survivors from Chile

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will meet with five priests who suffered abuse by Chilean Father Fernando Karadima or his followers, the Vatican said.

The pope will meet June 1-3 with "five priests who were victims of abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse," the Vatican said in a statement May 22.

Two priests who have accompanied the survivors "in their juridical and spiritual journey" and "two laypeople involved in this suffering" also were invited by Pope Francis, the statement said. They will all be guests at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives.

The pope will celebrate a private Mass with the group June 2 and will meet with members of the group together and individually, the statement said. In late April, Pope Francis had hosted three laymen who were sexually abused by Father Karadima.

"With this new meeting, planned a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, accompany them in their pain and listen to their valuable opinion to improve the current preventative measures and the fight against abuses in the church," the statement said.

The day after the Vatican's announcement, three Chilean priests who will take part in the meeting read a statement on behalf of all nine, confirming their participation in the meetings with Pope Francis.

At a May 23 news conference in Santiago, Chilean Fathers Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Eugenio de la Fuente Lora thanked the pope for his invitation, which they said they hope would "re-establish justice and communion, particularly within our Archdiocese of Santiago and its presbyteries."

The statement was signed by the three priests, as well as Fathers Javier Barros Bascunan and Sergio Cobo Montalva.

The four other members of the group, the statement said, wished to remain anonymous.

They also expressed the "hope that our experience may give a voice to many others who have suffered abuses or have accompanied abused persons."

The Chilean priests also asked journalists to respect the "confidentiality and the privacy" of the meetings and that there will be "no more public statements until our return to Santiago."

The Vatican said the priests were abused by Father Karadima and his followers in the parish of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of "El Bosque" ("The Forest").

Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima's proteges went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.  

However, several former seminarians of "El Bosque" revealed in 2010 that the Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members of the parish community for years. One year later, Father Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

Chilean survivors have also alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- as well as other members of Father Karadima's inner circle had witnessed their abuse by his mentor.

The pope, who initially defended his 2015 appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, apologized after receiving a 2,300-page report from Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.

In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged the forgiveness of the survivors and others he offended. He invited three survivors -- Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo -- to Rome in late April and called all of the Chilean bishops to the Vatican for meetings May 15-17.

In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events."

The document's footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Archbishop Scicluna, which confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as "implausible."

But Pope Francis said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents.

Those actions, he said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future."

After the three-day meeting, most of the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the pope.

Back in Chile, bishops -- including Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops' commission for abuse prevention -- continue to face a backlash over their handling of cases of abuse.

Bishop Goic suspended 14 of the diocese's 68 priests May 19 after an investigative report by Tele 13 alleged there was a sex-abuse ring made up of clergy and known as "La Cofradia" ("The Brotherhood").

According to the report, "La Cofradia" had its own hierarchical structure and carried out, as well as covered up, the sexual abuse of minors by members of the group.

The report also alleged that although Bishop Goic was informed and presented with evidence of the group's existence by Elsa Fernandez, a local youth minister, he refused to act.

Fernandez said she contacted the Chilean bishops' conference in January to inform them of the abuses committed by "La Cofradia." However, she said, she was informed in an email that the conference "does not formally receive complaints."

In an interview published on the Tele 13 website May 22, Bishop Goic said he had thought people talking about "La Cofradia" were speaking "in jest" and said he "never received a formal complaint that seriously said this was happening."

After the report's broadcast, Bishop Goic acknowledged that he had met with Fernandez, and he apologized for his failure to act "with the appropriate agility in the investigation" of the priests allegedly involved in the sex abuse ring.

"I must admit that personally, as a Christian and a pastor, I find myself very affected by this difficult situation that hurts and embarrasses me," the bishop said. "I pray that the truth, the whole truth, may come to light in these cases and in any other situations that threaten the Gospel of Christ's love."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Chicago priest's effort to build community earns CCHD leadership award

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Natalie Battaglia

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A year into his priesthood, Father Matt O'Donnell was named a pastor.

Days before his 27th birthday in 2013, Father O'Donnell arrived at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago's South Side Park Manor neighborhood and since then has embraced his ministry to the African-American community.

It didn't take long for the young priest who grew up at St. Fabian Parish in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview to become a leading figure in the neighborhood.

Father O'Donnell, now 31, went about getting to know residents and parishioners and learning what they thought the community needed. From that, Father O'Donnell recruited volunteers in spearheading the creation of a variety of services and ministries that has cemented St. Columbanus as an anchor in Park Manor.

For starters, there's the parish food pantry that serves more than 500 people 49 of 52 Wednesdays a year, the building of a new playground that gives kids a safe space to be kids and an athletic center that gives older kids an alternative to gang life. The parish also is the site of Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, an acclaimed elementary school focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math.

The parish opens its doors to the wider community, hosting its popular "Pop Up Clergy" program from time to time in front of the church, complete with a grill for barbecuing. The event brings neighbors and police together to foster friendship and understanding. The most recent in early May attracted 150 people.

"The people (at the parish) are very grateful that I'm young and have inexhaustible energy," he told Catholic News Service.

For his efforts, Father O'Donnell was named the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty and social justice program.

The award is to be presented June 13 at a reception during the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a statement called Father O'Donnell's work of building a parish "a living example of Pope Francis's vision of a field hospital church that exists to serve humankind and spread the Gospel of a loving God."

"By his caring presence, his limitless energy for good works and his compassionate ministry, he has made St. Columbanus a beacon of hope in its community and an example of faith in action far beyond its borders," he said.

In nominating Father O'Donnell for the award, Olivia Silver said she wanted to call attention to the "good things that were happening at the parish and the good things that Father Matt was doing."

Silver, a member of Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral and a St. Columbanus volunteer, called the priest an "innovative pastor who gives his entire heart to his parish, his community and his loved ones."

"He is doing such great stuff there," she said.

Father O'Donnell takes little credit for the parish's accomplishments, citing instead parish staff for the success of the many ministries. He said he strives to "empower the people in the parish to take the responsibility to run the different aspects of the ministry that we have."

And he thanked parishioners for being "forgiving and patient with me."

Father O'Donnell also credited the "good priests around me to give me on-the-job training" in the work of a pastor.

The young priest has long held an interested in serving in the African-American community. His internships before ordination were in other South Side parishes where he "fell in love with the liturgy, the music, the preaching" and discovered that the hospitality of the neighborhoods was "very giving."

A period spent at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans strengthened his desire for his chosen ministry.

That interest convinced then-Cardinal Francis E. George to appoint Father O'Donnell as pastor. "Cardinal George said he would rather have me because I have the desire to serve the black community than to have somebody who had more experience but didn't have the desire," Father O'Donnell recalled.

As for the future, Father O'Donnell has eyes on opening a community service center to help residents prepare for the GED test and apply for work. He has even thought of opening a coffee shop "to create some jobs in the area."

The priest acknowledged Park Manor is going through changes, like many other Chicago neighborhoods: longtime residents have either moved away or died; violence has increased; locally owned businesses have closed; and poverty is growing.

Such factors motivate Father O'Donnell to do his best while partnering with others interested in building an inclusive, welcoming community.

"St. Columbanus has been here since 1909 and has been an anchor in in Park Manor," he said. "We're trying to figure out what more we can be doing to better the life of the neighborhood."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope prays that Catholics in China may live their faith in peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked people to pray for Catholics in China so that they may be able to live their faith with serenity and in full communion with the pope.

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians May 24. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI established the feast as a world day of prayer for the church in China because Mary is venerated under that title at the Marian shrine in Sheshan, outside Shanghai, China.

At the end of his general audience talk in St. Peter's Square May 23, Pope Francis said the feast day "invites us to be united spiritually with all the Catholic faithful who live in China."

He asked people pray to Our Lady so that Catholics there would be able "to live the faith with generosity and serenity" and so that they would know how to carry out "concrete gestures of fraternity, harmony and reconciliation, in full communion with the successor of Peter."

"Dear disciples of the Lord in China, the universal church prays with you and for you so that even in the midst of difficulties you may continue to trust in God's will," he said.

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Editors: Here is the prayer in English that Pope Benedict XVI released in 2008 on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html

In Chinese: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/zh_tw/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.